BCAAs may improve physical function following stroke

Salmon, nuts, seeds and other foods on wooden plate on table

Stroke patients who took BCAAs showed improvement in muscle and functional status compared to those who did not take BCAAs, according to a study reported on March 11, 2022 in Frontiers in Neurology.1 Having a stroke can lead to a decline in both muscle tissue and physical function because of brain damage, inactivity, malnutrition and other factors.

The study included 54 patients who had a recent stroke (within three months) and were receiving intensive therapy at a rehabilitation center. The majority of patients had muscle tissue loss. Half of the men and women in the study received 6 grams of a blend of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, to be consumed twice per day for four weeks.

Among participants who received BCAAs, handgrip strength and skeletal muscle mass significantly improved after treatment, while muscle mass significantly decreased in the control group. Both groups experienced improvement in physical function as indicated by assessments of activities of daily living, balance, gait and swallowing; however, the group that received BCAAs improved to a greater extent.

Of those in the group receiving BCAAs, 46% regained the ability to walk by the study’s conclusion, compared to 37% of patients not receiving BCAAs. Improvement in muscle status was correlated with better physical function, especially ambulatory (walking-related) scores, among participants who received the amino acids.

“Proper strategies involving rehabilitation interventions and nutritional support are important for maximum functional improvement after stroke,” authors Min Kyu Park of Chungbuk National University Hospital in South Korea and colleagues concluded. “We suggest that BCAAs would be a helpful, adjuvant therapy at a critical period of poststroke neurological recovery during intensive stroke rehabilitation intervention.”


Apply What You've Learned: Stroke

  • There are two main types of strokes: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Most strokes are ischemic, caused by blockage of a vessel that delivers blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by rupture of a brain blood vessel, which results in bleeding. Both can result in the death of brain cells. Maintaining healthy blood pressure is one of the most important things you can do to protect against both types of strokes and other cardiovascular events.2
  • Wondering if it’s a stroke? Think FAST. FAST is an acronym for:
    • Face drooping
    • Arm weakness
    • Speech difficulty
    • Time to call 9113
    People who experience any of the first three of these, or observe them in others, are advised to call 911 immediately. Other symptoms can include confusion, loss of coordination, trouble seeing, or a sudden severe headache.4
  • The faster one receives treatment after a stroke, the better the outcomes. Acting with urgency and calling an ambulance is crucial, as treatment can be started faster.4,5
  • Study findings suggest that intake of magnesium, olive oil, flavonoids, B vitamins, vitamin D, N-acetylcysteine, and other nutrients may help lower the risk of stroke or improve outcomes in stroke patients.6-11


  1. Park MK et al. Front Neurol. 2022 Mar 11;13:744945.
  2. Wajngarten M et al. Eur Cardiol. 2019 Jul 11;14(2):111-115.
  3. “Stroke symptoms.” American Stroke Association.
  4. “Treat and recover from stroke.” Stroke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Filho JO et al. UpToDate®. 2022 Mar 25.
  6. Zhao B et al. Front Neurol. 2019 Aug 7;10:852.
  7. Martínez-González MA et al. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jul 28;112(2):248-59.
  8. Tang Z et al. BMJ Open. 2016 Jun 8;6(6):e008680.
  9. Kataria N et al. Cureus. May 11 2021;13(5):e14958.
  10. Gupta A, et al. Int J Clin Prac. Sep 2016;70(9):764-70.
  11. Sabetghadam M, et al. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2020;16:1265-1278.

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